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Should Lasers Be Banned?

Careful where you wave that thing. Even in ‘Merica, the country where you can get a free AK-47 with a purchase of a pickup truck, you’ll face 180 days in jail for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft because of the possible hazards. That’s just any regular ol’ laser pointer. Now, check this thing out:

This Spyder III Pro Arctic, a class IV laser, is so powerful and bright that you can actually see the beam. It has an output power approaching 1W…for reference, your typical commercial class II laser pointer will only be about 1 mW, 1000 times less powerful. How much damage can one watt do? Well, supposedly this laser can ignite human skin. Even if it doesn’t, the blue light can cause immediate and irreversible retinal damage and cause cancer. So…a lot. It can do a lot of damage.

It’s also totally legal in the U.S. and costs about $200.

I have a tough time being at ease with that. I know a lot of dumb people who have $200 lying around who would be waving this thing like a lightsaber all willy-nilly. No, I wasn’t talking about me. I don’t have $200.

In Australia, being caught in possession of a class III laser—less powerful that the Spyder III—can land you in prison for up to fourteen years. That might be overkill, but we are talking about a country with mandatory porn filtering.

In America, class IV lasers require a key-switch for safety, but are otherwise legal. Now I’m all for the second amendment, but I also don’t want to catch fire. Or cancer.

One company would definitely be happy for a ban, though: Lucasfilm Ltd. has sent a cease and desist to Wicked Lasers, claiming that the Spyder III looks too much like a lightsaber.

What do you guys think?

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46 comments

  • I keep forgetting Fosters – usually willingly. Bleargh.
    It’s not really a popular beer here. However, I suspect this isn’t the place to discuss such things.

  • At least this whole ordeal has finally led us to this sentence: If lasers are outlawed, only outlaws will have lasers.

    Finally, the future is here.

    I think it’s fine that they exist, whatever. But, I don’t think it’s fine that anyone can get them at this point. You have to be 18 to get a shotgun, and 21 to get a handgun, but these things, all you need is 200 dollaridoos (I’m not sure of the Australian/American conversion rate.) and they seem to be just as harmful, except they can cause cancer as well. What I’m saying is, we need more laser control laws.

    Also, there are flashlights that can set paper on fire, so I’m sure they’d at least burn your skin.

  • I kept thinking you were referencing the old Line 6 Spyder III guitar amp…threw me off a bit.
    Well, as long as none of the idiots I know get their hands on one, I should be fine.

  • No worries, mate, just filling you in. It was more likely back before it became a really, really big issue here – now, it’s nothing more than a labour party pipe dream. The problem is, most international news isn’t big on follow ups or fact checking, they’re more for “look at them crazy Aussies now!”

    Mostly not your fault, but make sure, next time. News about Australia is few and far between when you’re offshore, and usually not entirely accurate – let’s face it, we’re a tiny little nation of 22 million, down at the lower third of the globe, most of the western world knows us for little more than Crocodile Dundee, Steve Irwin, and that one epiode of the Simpsons.

  • Equating this with a gun as far as a dangerous weapon- flawed. You know a rifle is a weapon. You can’t take it many places. A rifle has one use- destruction at a distance. (I own several, btw).

    This is sold as a toy. A novelty. And it can inadvertantly maim as many people as you can point it at. This won’t receive the same respect as a firearm. There is essentially no barrier to entry, no training, no certifications. It’s a flashlight that burns and blinds anyone it hits.

    Really- how is this OK?

  • I did some research in this thing when it first came out. I think the thing that scares me the most is ease at which it can blind people. This thing can blind you even if it’s not shined directly in your eyes. Even if the beam hits a matte surface and happens to then hit your eye you will be blinded, at best case you will lose the ability to see the color green for 6 months or more. And the other thing is that the effects are not immediate. It can take up to 24 hours for the damage to caused to start showing up. By then whomever did it is long gone. The potential to blind massive numbers of people in just a matter of seconds makes this thing way too dangerous for any schmuck with 200 bucks to be able to own. You should have to have a very difficult to obtain license at best to own one individually with prison as a consequence of being caught with possession of one without said license. Add in the fact that they deliberately made this thing look like a lightsaber to get the uninformed masses to buy them up and you have a terrible recipe for potential harm to the general public on a much larger scale.

    With a gun you can hurt a few people in a limited matter of time. This thing has the potential to blind hundreds and maybe thousands in seconds if someone brought it to a concert, football game, etc. The deal is even if you don’t look directly at the beam but the refracted / reflected beam enters your eye you will go permanently blind! It has to be banned or highly regulated.

  • @Churba: My apologies…clearly I didn’t do enough fact-checking on that subject. Honestly I just kinda threw it in there to try to lighten up the article a bit. I got nothin’ against Australians.

    In any case, thanks for all the info…frankly, I think that government filtering, web openness and net neutrality in general is something that people should really start paying more attention to. Fortunately it sounds like there isn’t a huge risk of censorship over there, as that English (and clearly inaccurate) news source seemed to say there was.

  • Why would you need a hand healed C-IV laser? Those are the lasers my friend uses in laser engravers and cutting machines. so…. you want to set shit on fire from long range? This is the tool for you! And no i don’t think it should be banned. But you need to be VERY careful with one of those because you can do allot of damage.

  • I could think of reasons pro and con for this device. Let’s just step back and marvel at how far we’ve come with the technology. Now lets all cheer for freakin’ cool ass lazers! O.K., continue the debate.

  • I love all the “what do you even need this for? you’ll burn your dick off with this thing…” type dumbassery from the control freaks. Reply: hey dumbass, I, and thousands of other Americans, legally own high powered long range rifles and machine guns that could, if we wanted, cause death and destruction from a mile or more away. But we don’t, except when some thug tries something, which is why our society is so civil, and the lowest crime rates are in states with the most permissive gun laws.
    While this laser could cause harm, it is a nonlethal device, so it needs even less regulation than firearms. As for whiners claiming you could take an airliner down with this thing, firstly, you can already do that with normal laser pointers, and other more destructive weapons, secondly, YOU CAN SEE THE BEAM, which would lead investigators right back to wherever you shot the beam from, which would lead them eventually back to you, so that makes you a dumb criminal. Thirdly, thats illegal, dumbass. Criminals don’t pay attention to laws, thats what makes them criminals. If they are gonna disobey a law about pointing them at airplanes, they are also gonna disobey any law that restricts access to them, just as they do with guns. It is not possible to legislate a technology out of existence.

  • So the next time you are at a concert and some moron with $200 breaks this out- he permanently blinds a fifteen people before he sets the stage on fire. Really- that’s not an exaggeration.

    It’s too easy for anyone to buy this horrifically dangerous toy. It’s way to farking dangerous. 20 years ago you needed a certification to get a laser 1/20th as powerful.

    For a reason.

  • The cease-and-desist demand was withdrawn some time ago.

    As for “what is such a device for?” That’s irrelevant. You shouldn’t need to provide a reason for owning something to own it, and if you do, the law is unjust. If you want to make *doing* something specific with that item illegal, fine – but people buying these things isn’t wrong, and doesn’t require justification, or your approval.

  • There is NO way this thing causes cancer. Blue light is of insufficient energy to break chemical bonds. Einstein figured this out nearly 100years ago (cf. photoelectric effect). It might blind you, it might scare you, but there is no known mechanism and no evidence AT ALL that visible light can cause cancer.

  • Also, I wasn’t exactly clear above – The party that is currently in Power, the Labour party, is pushing for an upgrade to our internet infrastructure, and though with that party, they’re a package deal, it’s separate from the filter.

    Any state wanting to implement the upgrade also has to implement the filter, however, they are not the same thing.

  • Hey, Andy, try doing the research next time, rather than going along with an ENGLISH news source for an Australian political policy. If you had, you’d discover Australia doesn’t have “Mandatory Porn Filtering” or really, any internet filtering at all.

    The Current – And I say current simply because until tomorrow’s election, that’s true – government is pushing a National upgrade to out internet infrastructure, and that Political party is going along with the idea of the filter.

    Even if it was made law tomorrow, we still wouldn’t have it in place, except in a very limited fashion, by the end of the year, if the government tried really, really hard. And, If they’re in power beyond tomorrow’s election.

    Realistically – with Most major political parties being against it, damn near every media pundit and other popular figures of celebrity and opinion, and most importantly, the Australian Public being against it, it simply won’t happen.

    I’d probably be annoyed, if I wasn’t so used to this sort of thing from pretty much every American on the internet, ever.

  • “Cigarettes cause cancer”??? Yes, they do cause cancer…TO YOURSELF! In fact, the very small (and probably debatable) chance that your smoking could give someone else cancer through second-hand smoke is the sole reason that cigarettes are being banned in establishments across the country!!! So your unbelievably asinine cigarette logic actually does the opposite of what you intended; if the slight risk of cancer from second-hand smoke causes many states to outlaw smoking indoors, then how do we NOT regulate something that is much more deadly, and from a much greater range????????????

    SPECTACULAR LOGIC FAIL.

  • I still don’t se why this laser even exist. Seriously. And why would an everyday person want one. Y’all are just weird losers if you do get one. It’s not going to help you get laid that’s for sure. But have fun burning you penis off wth it.

  • Wicked Lasers raised the price of this thing to $299 a little while ago. supposedly shipping orders now. I ordered mine a few months ago because, well honestly, it’s a <1W freaking for, at the time, less than $200! also I didn't think I'd be able to get one once word got out and these were banned like crazy.

    once it arrives, I'll probably piss myself with excitement and extreme fear.

  • Uh, this may just be my laser uninformed-ness talking but, what exactly does one use such a device for other than attempting to take over the world before Agent 007 comes a-callin’ and a-asskickin’?

    Seriously. What is this laser for? And does the general public actually do any activity that requires such a device?

  • If Lucasfilm Ltd wants to sue, then Lucasfilms should be paying the descendants of the inventor of the sword and sword grip, or grow up. The laser doesn’t terminate after three feet, and how can you claim intellectual property on the IDEA of a futuristic sword grip. (as long as it doesn’t copy starwars exact look)

  • The difference between this laser and a gun is at least twofold:

    1. Lasers don’t need bullets. Crazy people on rampages with guns rarely kill more than a dozen people. Crazy people with lasers could harm thousands in a crowd in seconds.

    2. Lasers don’t leave forensic evidence. We know how to prove who was shot with what specific gun, and who fired it. If someone blinds you with a laser from a half-mile away, how will you ever prove who did it?

  • I ordered mine over a month ago, still haven’t gotten it (though I read about their being far far behind before I placed my order.) Yeah, they’re definitely not a toy that looks a whole lot like a toy. I only hope most of the people who get one blind/ignite/cancer themselves to death before they can get to me….

    (Now, if I could mount this laser on a tilt/rotate platform, put some motion-detection or face recognition software hooked up to it….hmm…laser home security…)

  • Cigarettes can give you cancer. Those seem pretty legal. There is no reason this thing should be illegal to own, that would be against everything this country stands for, BUT that doesn’t mean idiots should own them either. Should it be sold in the isle at Walmart, not really. A hunting shop or a place that sells knives and guns, sure, that’s perfect. This thing falls into a category someplace between guns and knives. It should be regulated in some way, but man this thing is awesome. If you don’t want cancer out there, stay out of sun and stop people from smoking cigarettes (ever heard of second hand smoke?). This laser on the other hand is seven kinds of awesome and should be plenty legal to own. I’m not sure it’s really any more dangerous than the 12 gauge I can buy at Walmart, or the razor sharp Katana I can get online with no age check whatsoever.

    That thing is awesome, lets just face the facts here, I think the idea of gasoline and this laser = web soup is a good one. Someone’s probably working on it as I type this, good for them, sometimes we need to cull the herd and lasers, 12 gauges and Katana’s in the right/wrong hands do just that. Wicked cool though. I kind of want one, but I don’t want to cull myself.

    -Michael

  • Trent:

    As far as I know, your neighbors ax can’t set you ablaze or give you cancer, especially not from a long range away. What part of “can cause cancer” is “generally low risk”?

  • I have a green laser with about 1/6 that power, and it’s painfully bright and somewhat dangerous. This one is pretty scary, and therefore I WANT ONE!

    Just a note: the blue light it emits scatters a whole lot better than red or even green ones, and that’s another reason the beam is so easy to see. I’ve used a 1W green laser and the beam is still a bit hard to see in daylight. Normally, a laser collimates (focuses) the light into a beam, and if it’s perfect you’d never see it unless it were aimed right at you. Blue photons bounce off particles in the air more easily than longer wavelengths (like red), so the light doesn’t all move along the beam; some gets deflected making the beam visible to you.

  • I don’t really understand why something like this is manufactured in the first place. What are the ‘potential benefits’ mentioned in the other comment? I don’t think that Lucasfilm Ltd. has any case though, because if you are going to make a laser, how can it NOT look a little like a light saber?

  • No.

    It’s a tool, like my neighbors’ ax or the knives at my kids’ cafeteria. You could hurt someone pretty quickly with one of those if you wanted. But isn’t it better for everyone to all have the opportunity to enjoy their potential benefits? The general risk seems pretty low.

    Now, if we all lived in a world where our protective atmospheric bubbles could be punctured by the random accident with a laser… you’d have me there.